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If you’re looking for gift ideas for Apple fans in your life, HomeKit accessories make one of the best options because of how it natively works with your products, low cost, and multiple use options. So as you go shopping for the Apple fans in your life, here’s my round-up of the best HomeKit accessories for Christmas.
HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.August Lock
The single HomeKit accessory that I use more than any other is my August Lock with Wi-Fi. I have automations set to unlock as we walk up as it connects over Bluetooth. It’s handy to use when you’re out of town if you need to let someone in the house remotely as well. One of the aspects I appreciate is that it doesn’t require you to change the outer part of your deadbolt – it only replaces the indoor aspect.
For someone starting out with HomeKit, a smart home-enabled door lock is a great place to start.Aqara Starter Kit and related accessories
The Aqara Starter Kit is a great item to grab for someone in your life for who you can’t find quite the right gift. It includes the hub, door sensor, and motion sensor. It’s also incredibly inexpensive to add on a water leak sensor – which I highly recommend. I have one of them under each of our sinks and in front of our major appliances that use water. The devices aren’t native to HomeKit but communicate over Zigbee to the Aqara hub, which can bridge to HomeKit.Eve outlet adaptor with Thread
A simple stocking stuffer for an Apple fan is the Eve outlet adaptor with Thread support. The outlet adaptor lets you convert a traditional powered lamp or other appliance into a smart one. Eve is a top-tier HomeKit vendor, and its introduction of Thread support makes it even better. I firmly believe Thread is a critical part of a stable, smart home over the next decade.HomePod mini
The HomePod mini is a great item to add to HomeKit for two reasons.
It acts as a Homehub to allow for remote access to HomeKit and automations
It adds a Thread network point to increase the strength of your Thread network.abode HomeKit alarm
The abode alarm has been in my home for almost two years now, and it’s been a fantastic addition. All the devices are exposed in HomeKit to be used with automations. We have motion sensors, door sensors, glass break sensors, and smoke sensors.
If you’re looking to install a DYI security system, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that’s easier to use than abode. The monthly monitoring includes internet-based and LTE-based communication for the base station.Onvis motion sensor
A HomeKit motion sensor is a handy stocking stuffer for someone with all the known Apple accessories on the market. For example, we use them to trigger lamps around our house early in the morning when people start waking up. Because HomeKit unifies devices from different manufacturers, you can use an Onvis motion sensor to turn on a Hue LED bulb, for example.Homam High-end HomeKit camera with local storage
There are several great HomeKit cameras. On the low end, I love the Aqara options, Eve, Onvis, etc. – but for the high-end HomeKit camera, check out the Homam camera. It’s my newest HomeKit product, and I have a full review coming in a few weeks, but it’s the best premium HomeKit camera on the market.
Cameras that use HomeKit Secure Video use end-to-end encryption; you can be sure that no one but you can access the footage or the stream. HomeKit also allows you to adjust streaming and recording based on if people are home are not, so if you want to turn off the camera when you’re home, you can do that automatically.
The Homam camera also includes local recording if you want to avoid all cloud storage on your cameras. Along with recording, HomeKit cameras can be used as motion sensors to automatically turn lights on and off.HOOBS Homebridge in a box
If you have someone in your life who likes to tinker, the HOOBS hub would be a great product to get them. It’s a Homebridge server in a box, so you can start adding devices to HomeKit that aren’t usually compatible. For example, you can connect a Ring camera, a eufy Door Bell, or even a Neato vacuum cleaner to HomeKit even though they don’t natively support it.
A recent software update to version 4 added some new features that make it an even better purchase. I’ve had one for over a year, and it’s been a lot of fun to tinker with for devices in my home that don’t natively support HomeKit – my favorite is my eufy doorbell.Starling Home Hub
For the techie person in your life that lives in both the Apple and Google home lifestyle, the Starling Home Hub is a great addition. For only $89, you can connect all Nest devices (thermostat, doorbell, cameras, and doorbells) and Google Home speakers to HomeKit. The Nest display is a fun device to have as a desk accessory, and since I have my photos backed up to Google Photos, I love seeing them scrolling throughout my day. When Starling added AirPlay support to this device, it became even more helpful. If you have the Google Home mini speakers, you can pair them as stereo pairs and use them as AirPlay targets.Summary
This list includes some of my favorite HomeKit accessories. HomeKit is the best smart home platform for Apple fans, given its tight integration and focus on security. You can start small with a single outlet adaptor and work up to an entire ecosystem of products making it a great gift idea for Apple fans.
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Sometimes, it’s good to take a step back and build on foundations with a new year. I think about HomeKit every day, so many of the terms I throw around, like Automations, Home Hub, Homebridge, etc., might be known to experts. Still, I wanted to compile a go-to list of HomeKit terms and definitions for newcomers over the next few weeks. So this week, I want to look in-depth at HomeKit Automations.
HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.HomeKit Automations
HomeKit Automations are when you use an event to make something else happen. In HomeKit, here are the possible events:
A Time of Day Occurs
An Accessory is Controlled (light turns on)
A Sensor Detects something
Let’s run through each of them in detail and list some possible product options that you’d need to use the automation.People Leave Automation
Picking one of these events is how you build your automation. Let’s pick one and run through a scenario. Let’s say you want to develop an automation to turn off all HomeKit lights when people leave. You’d select the second option. The device included in the “people leave” will be the people who access your HomeKit.
In the HomeKit Automation builder, you can select “when anyone leaves” or “when the last person leaves.” For this example, choose when the last person leaves, as we wouldn’t want to turn off the lights when someone is still home. You can also set it to only operate during set periods.
You’ll select the devices you want to include in this automation in the next screen. In my situation, I have a Scene created with the lights I’d like to include, so it’s easier to pick it over adding devices manually. Then, tap on the scene to set the lights off when the scene is run.People Arrive Automation
This scene is very similar to the previous one, but with the reverse of running when people arrive. Like the People Leave automation, you can select if it runs when the first person arrives or when anyone arrives. Going back to our previous example with lights, you’d likely want to choose when anyone arrives, but perhaps only after 3:00 PM. You’ll have this option on the initial screen. You can then go through and select your accessories and finalize the automation.A Time of Day Occurs
A Time of Day HomeKit Automation is set to run at a specific time. An example of where you might want to use this is you want certain lights to turn on at 8:00 a.m. regardless of who’s home or not. A Time of Day HomeKit Automation will run based on the time alone.An Accessory is Controlled
The When an Accessory Is Controlled automation is one I don’t use a lot, but it’s one of the more flexible ones that Apple allows inside of HomeKit. The idea here is to bridge accessories together based on a chain reaction. One example is that if your HomeKit Security System triggers, then you could set all of the lights in the house to flip on at full blast.A Sensor Detects Something
The last automation available in HomeKit is when a sensor detects something. Possible scenarios here are HomeKit motion sensors detecting motion turning on lights at a preset time or having a water leak sensor play a particular song if it detects water. If you have HomeKit Door Sensors, they can also be used in these automations.Summary
As you can see, HomeKit provides a lot of flexibility when setting up automations. In my opinion, it’s one of the best parts of HomeKit and why you’ll want to make sure all of your smart home devices are in HomeKit. As long as your devices all exist in Apple’s smart home platform, you can tie them together regardless of who the product’s manufacturer is.
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There are many ways to interact with HomeKit. You can use the Home app on iOS or macOS, you can use Siri on a HomePod or Apple Watch, but another way is with NFC tags, and it’s surprisingly easy and can be done for less than $1 per NFC automation you want to build. Since learning how to use it, it’s been an ideal way to use HomeKit in a way that’s faster than using the Home app but more reliable than Siri. Let’s dive in on how it works and how to configure it.
HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.
NFC tags are an underutilized technology. Like QR codes were underused for a decade, I believe NFC tags will see much higher uses in the coming years.Create NFC HomeKit automations in Shortcuts
On the next screen, tap on scan. Then take one of your NFC tags, put it up to your iPhone (on iPhone 13, it’s near the camera). You’ll then have the opportunity to name it. I chose the name of the automation I plan to run when I tap on it.
Next, choose Add Action. Next, tap on the Apps tab, and choose Home, choose the Take Control of Your Home option. Next, tap on Set Scenes and Accessories. Find your Accessory/Scene and then set if you want it to come on or off. Then, you can finalize the HomeKit automation with the NFC tag. One thing to note, I would turn off the Ask Before Running for the vast majority of automations.Potential use cases
So far, I am using it in a couple of places, but I believe I will have additional use cases over time. Right now, I use it to turn on the HomeKit bulb in a lamp where I have my morning coffee. In the past, I’ve used either a motion sensor or turned it on manually, but I like using the NFC tag because I can tap on it as I walk out of my bedroom (it’s on an end table), and it turns on. Since it’s usually early in the morning, this is a quiet way to start the day.
We’re also using it as a silent way to trigger white noise machines plugged up to HomeKit outlet adaptors in our kids’ rooms as they go to bed. I’ve got them placed high up enough where they can’t reach them, so I don’t have to worry about them going missing. When we’re tucking them in, we tap the NFC tag with our iPhones, and they come on. As reliable as Siri can be on HomePod, it sometimes gets confused if we make the command differently. Overall, it’s a full-proof way to make sure you turn on the right accessories without waiting on the Home app to open, sync up, etc.
In a way, NFC tags are portable switches for HomeKit. Light switches are a reliable way to turn on accessories, and NFC tags allow you to use your iPhone as a “portable switch” without needing to unlock it, open an app, and find an accessory. The great thing about this HomeKit upgrade is all of your existing accessories work. The only thing you need to buy is a pack of NFC tags that will cost you less than $10 for a pack of 12.
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Now is a good time to buy the Apple Watch. A new version with GPS called Series 2 came out in September, and the original model was updated with a speed boost and a new name: Series 1. Both models fix issues that made the original Apple Watch fine for early adopters but harder to recommend to the masses. There’s also an ecosystem of Apple Watch accessories that we’ve tested and can recommend. Read on for my hand-picked Apple Watch gift guide choices including some out-of-the-box suggestions.
First, a quick primer on Apple Watch models in case you’re considering one as a gift for yourself or someone else.
First-generation: Not recommended if buying new due to performance issues (discontinued)
Series 1: Recommended for many customers, same speed as Series 2 (reg. $269-$299)
Series 2: Recommended for fitness use, features GPS and brighter display plus more case choices (reg. $369-$1499)
Deciding between Series 1 and Series 2 can be confusing; this is what I wrote in my Series 2 review:
Personally, I think these questions are necessary when deciding between Series 1 and Series 2:
Do you want stainless steel with wider band compatibility or ceramic instead of aluminum?
Do you want to map runs or outdoor cycles without bringing your iPhone?
Do you want to get credit for swimming workouts?
Do you care about display visibility in very bright sunlight?
If you answer yes to any of those questions, then buy Series 2. If not but you’re still in the market for an Apple Watch, strongly consider Series 1. I do not recommend the first generation Apple Watch if you want to have the best experience unless you’re on a tight budget.
For the best Apple Watch deals, stay tuned to 9to5Toys. Now for our recommendations:
Best Apple Watch Docks
You don’t need a dock to charge Apple Watch but they’re certainly nice to have. Nomad Stand for Apple Watch is my top pick. Stand works with all Apple Watch models including both open- and closed-style bands.
It’s a solid dock with a minimal, modern look. You have to supply your own Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable like the one that comes in the box and Stand doesn’t support Nightstand mode, but it’s an attractive dock worthy of presenting any Apple Watch.
Stand is reasonably priced at $39.95 from Nomad and Amazon and comes in two colors: silver and space gray aluminum.
If you want to go the official route, Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock is your only option. I personally use this dock but it’s not my top recommendation because of its price: $79.
Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock is a soft padded disk with a firm weighted bottom. An integrated charging connector in the center pops up for closed-style bands and lays flat for open-style bands.
Magnetic Charging Dock does support Nightstand mode and doesn’t require supplying your own charging cable.
It actually relies on an included Lightning cable (2 meters) for power. This cable can be useful when traveling if you need a spare iPhone charger although you can’t charge both your iPhone and Apple Watch overnight when sharing.
This dock’s $79 price makes it difficult to recommend given its basic function but it’s a nice-to-have accessory if you like its look.
Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock is available in one color — white — from Apple and Best Buy.
If you like the disk shape of Apple’s official dock, Bluelounge Kosta is a $15 charging coaster that has a similar footprint. Like Nomad Stand, you supply your own charging cable like the one that comes with your Apple Watch.
The charging end can stand upright or lay flat to support both open- and closed-style bands, although it’s not fixed in place so it can be difficult to keep positioned. Bluelounge Kosta is available in dark gray for $14.95 on Amazon; check out our hands-on review here.
Finally, Belkin has a few dock options with integrated charging connectors like Apple’s solution. Pictured is Belkin Valet Charge Dock for Apple Watch + iPhone in rose gold. It’s a pricey Apple Store exclusive at $129.95 but includes everything you need to power both your iPhone and Apple Watch.
Belkin also makes a cheaper version that only serves the Apple Watch plus a new design with a lower price tag called PowerHouse Charge. Check out our full review of the combo Valet Charge Dock here.
Best Third-Party Apple Watch Bands
Nomad is back with my favorite third-party Apple Watch band: Leather Strap for Apple Watch. Priced at $59.95, Leather Strap comes in brown or gray for silver or black hardware.
The leather is sourced from Chicago’s Horween Leather Company and the hardware comes in two styles: modern or traditional. See our hands-on review here.
Best Active Lifestyle Accessories
Apple Watch features an integrated heart rate monitor that stays active when logging workouts, but it can be a battery drain during lengthy exercises. Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor & Fitness Tracker (~$50) wirelessly pairs with Apple Watch and provides heart rate data without taxing the Apple Watch battery.
I don’t use it for casual workouts, but it’s beneficial during days when I know I’ll be logging a lot of activity. A side benefit is capturing constant heart rate data throughout the day even when you’re not logging workouts; Apple Watch only measures about every ten minutes when not logging workouts to preserve battery.
Speaking of battery life, Kanex has one of the only all-in-one solutions for keeping your Apple Watch charged during a weekend off the grid. Kanex GoPower Watch features an integrated charging connector that can recharge your Apple Watch over several nights. It’s pricier than other options at $74-$99 but makes for a nice gift or splurge purchase. See our hands-on review here.
If you’re using Apple Watch as a fitness tracker with the goal of getting in shape, a connected scale can be super convenient. I manually logged my weight in Apple’s Health app for months before upgrading to a Withings Wi-Fi Scale that automatically logs weight and BMI with Apple’s HealthKit feature. Prices start around $129 and vary depending on additional measurement features.
After starting to get serious about regularly running with Apple Watch Series 2, this week I decided to my running shoes need an upgrade and I’m in the market for running gloves to help get me through the winter — preferably something touch screen compatible for controlling Apple Watch.
Before cycling and running, my fitness story with Apple Watch started with a NordicTrack elliptical that I use for at least 30 minutes a day when I can’t get out and run or bike. I also keep a gym membership (Black Card at Planet Fitness) primarily for exercise equipment access when traveling.
I also rely on a few third-party apps on my Apple Watch that may be worth recommending or checking out: MyFitnessPal which I use to log my meals on iPhone and glance at goal progress from the app dock, Nike+ Run Club where I log my runs, and Fantastical ($2.99 currently during sale) which provides a streamlined calendar and customizable watch face complication.
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HomeKit doorbells are like unicorns. Mythical and make-believe, yet they still hold a place in our imagination. But what if they were real? HomeKit doorbells, not unicorns, that is. Turns out they do exist, and they’re as magical as any HomeKit enthusiast would expect. Especially if you’ve been waiting for years to get your hands on one.
Yobi B3 is the star of the HomeKit doorbell category. With an affordable price tag and a consumer-friendly design, Yobi is made to fill the massive gap left by Ring and other popular smart doorbells.
Update July 27, 2023: Yobi B3 is now widely available to customers including on Amazon. So how is it two months and one WWDC later? Yobi B3 is still the smart doorbell that I use (and there’s still no competition for HomeKit doorbells). Yobi B3 HomeKit Secure Video isn’t a thing yet, however, so patience may reward those who wait a while longer for a fully featured HomeKit doorbell. Still, it’s the best HomeKit-compatible, privacy-focused smart doorbell. HomeKit Secure Video and iOS 14 zones and contact recognition announcements on HomePod would knock it out of the park.The basics
If you already have an existing traditional doorbell installed, the process of switching to Yobi is straightforward.
Yobi replaces your existing doorbell by your front door
It relies on your existing wiring and doorbell chime inside, no Power over Ethernet required
Yobi includes a power adapter that may need to attach to your doorbell chime inside (my 1993 doorbell did not require this)
Yobi provides good documentation for how to install the B3 in place of your old doorbell. If you’re not comfortable with basic electrical work or don’t have an existing doorbell in place, contact an electrician.
Like other smart doorbells I’ve tested, Yobi includes two viewing position adapters that optionally install between the B3 doorbell and the wall.
One adapter lets you angle the point-of-view of the smart doorbell camera up or down depending on position. The other adapter lets you angle the POV inward left or right.
The adapter is white and not black as I’d prefer, but that does mean you can paint it to color match your home’s exterior.The app
For HomeKit enthusiasts like myself, this is a major plus. There’s no clunky app required to manage setup or control. Instead, Apple’s Home app is the interface for naming, assigning location, and interacting with Yobi B3.
This is great if HomeKit compatibility is your top priority like me. As Apple HomeKit improves with new features (like next month in iOS 14 beta), Yobi B3 will automatically adopt those new features in the Home app.
On the other hand, you won’t have the app-specific features that accessory makers can build in their own apps outside of HomeKit — but this is the HomeKit doorbell camera.HomeKit Secure Video?
Yobi B3 works as a HomeKit video camera just like other compatible smart cameras. The added benefit of being a doorbell camera is that you can receive a snapshot notification and quick access to a live video feed in the Home app when someone rings your doorbell. (The doorbell itself chimes too when someone rings it.)
The Home app lets you easily watch and listen to your visitor, optionally talk through your device’s microphone so your visitor can hear you through the doorbell’s speaker, or turn out outside lights or unlock doors that have HomeKit accessories. The integration with other HomeKit accessories is excellent, and you can use HomeKit motion detection to receive alerts if any motion is detected.
There’s one major open question though. Will Yobi B3 work with HomeKit Secure Video? The product would be absolutely perfect with Apple’s new version of video features. HomeKit Secure Video lets you receive alerts based on different objects recognized like people, pets, and cars. This filtering can be important for cameras facing streets. Video clips are also recorded for viewing more than just live feeds as well.
The answer is maybe. Yobi is working with Apple to determine if the chip inside Yobi B3 will be able to support HomeKit Secure Video.
The feature requires a 200GB (for one camera) or 1TB (for up to five cameras) iCloud storage plan to work. If HomeKit Secure Video isn’t important to you, this shouldn’t be a factor in your buying decision. If your heart is set on HomeKit Secure Video support, perhaps let this play out a bit longer to see what happens.Availability
Yobi B3 is a fairly priced HomeKit doorbell camera available for pre-order at $199 (Amazon). That’s in line with the price of many non-doorbell HomeKit cameras as well as non-HomeKit smart doorbells. The hardware is available in one color for now: the mix of black and gold finish seen here.
As a HomeKit video camera, not just a doorbell, Yobi B3 is compatible with Apple’s Home app including on the Mac and other HomeKit video apps including HomeCam for Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
If you’re like me and you’ve been waiting ages for an affordable and friendly designed HomeKit doorbell to come to market, this is the model to check out.Specs
Color Gold and black
Dimensions Height: 5.98″ (152mm)
Width: 2.44″ (62mm)
Depth: 2.05″ (52mm)
Mounting Method Screws
Resolution 1920 X 1080 (1080p)
Camera Lens: F2.2 aperture, 2.7mm focal lengthImage sensor: 1/2.7″ CMOS
Field of View Horizontal : 124° Diagonal: 180°
Night Vision 4 IR LEDs (850nm)Illuminates up to 29.6 feet (9m)
Video H.264 encodingFrame rate: 1– 30 FPS
Audio Built-in speaker and microphoneTwo-way audio talk
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz (Does not support 5GHz network) Supports WPA and WPA2 protocols
Connectivity Requirements Upload speed 2.0 Mbps
Integrations Apple Homekit
Operating Systems Supports iOS 10.3 or later
Operation Temperature -4℉– 140℉ / -20°C – 60 °C
Operation Humidity < 75% at 104℉ / 40°C
Weather Resistance Waterproof
In the Box 1 Video Doorbell B31 Quick Start Guide
Screws & extra parts
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There’s a very clear message delivered on the CES 2023 show floor: Smart home tech is definitely a thing. There is a ton of tech/accessories being showcased at CES that are designed to make your home life easier through connectivity. We’ve roamed the show floor searching high and low to bring you a roundup of some of the best smart home tech that was announced…
Most of the smart home tech that we’ve seen is controlled via apps that are available for iOS and Android, but there were a few that also featured integration with Apple HomeKit which will allow you to control these smart devices with your voice via Siri. Either way, it’s exciting to see what’s coming to market over the next year and we hope to see all of this available in the near future.
Check out our “top smart home tech” video below:
First up we stopped by Belkin and discovered a handful of new Wemo devices that work alongside other accessories in that lineup. Belkin is doing some really cool stuff with Wemo and launching a window/door sensor, keyring sensor, motion sensor, and an alarm sensor. There are even some home appliances like a coffee maker and crockpot that are smart and connected within the Wemo family. If you’re a fan of Belkin’s Wemo devices, you’ll definitely want to take a closer look.
Along our smart home journey, we also came across Ring, which is a video doorbell with one-way video and two-way audio communication. This will deliver a video stream from your front door when someone rings the doorbell. As mentioned, you can also communicate with the person on the other side which can be helpful in many different situations.
A lot of these devices make your life easier, but what about keeping you safe? Well First Alert recently introduced the OneLink Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detector (available now for $109) and we got a closer look during ShowStoppers. This smart smoke alarm features integration with Apple HomeKit and has apps available for iOS and Android. The best part is, you don’t have to worry about changing its batteries. First Alert says its product’s battery will last for a solid 10 years.
Kwikset also launched a companion subscription service called Kevo Plus to go along with its smart lock. The service provides you with a free secured router that creates the cloud connection and allows you to utilize the smart lock features from anywhere in the world. Along with that you’ll get unlimited free “Anytime Keys,” and all of this can be added to an existing Kevo device without purchasing a new lock. Kevo has also been integrated with Nest thermostat and allows for temperature-based user profiles depending on who unlocks the doors.
HomeKit seemed to be a big theme in the smart home category this year. iDevices gave us a closer look at its new connected plug called Switch. This features full HomeKit integration which will allow you to control the device using Siri on an iOS device. iHome has also joined the HomeKit party with its SmartPlug featuring similar functionality, and we even have Elgato on board with the Eve lineup of connected devices.
For more details and a closer look at all of the new smart home and HomeKit devices mentioned, check out the above video. It looks like technology is moving towards making smart house technology very consumer friendly and reasonably affordable. We’re excited to see what else is around the corner in 2023, but for now everything is off to a good start.
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